CANNES – Ask Colin Farrell to react to director Yorgos Lanthimos's insistence that the movie they have brought to the Cannes Film Festival is a comedy, and he laughs uproariously.
"He’s messed up," Farrell told Reuters of Lanthimos who wrote and directed "The Killing of a Sacred Deer."
"There are some funny things in it, some situational kind of leanings that are funny in their awkwardness, I’m sure. But… for me anyway, it's a black tragedy," said Farrell, who plays a character almost numbed by a traumatic event in his past.
"Sacred Deer" delves into horror movie territory even more deeply than Lanthimos's nightmarish "The Lobster," in which Farrell played a man destined to become a crustacean and which competed at Cannes two years ago.
Almost impossible to describe without giving away spoilers, "Sacred Deer" sees Farrell as a heart surgeon who, at the start of the film, has a mysterious relationship with a teenage boy. As his family life falls apart, he is forced to make an impossible choice, the "sacrifice" of the title.
"Sacred Deer" is one of two Farrell movies competing for this year's Palme d'Or at Cannes – the other is "The Beguiled" by Sofia Coppola that also stars Nicole Kidman.
"It’s an intriguing, disturbing, amusing twist on something which in many ways could be a conventional horror-thriller from the 1970s or 1980s, or even a bunny-boiler nightmare from the 90s," The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw wrote of "Sacred Deer" which he said explored "its own distinctive spectrum of weird."
Lanthimos said he was aiming in the movie for comedy and horror – just as he did in "The Lobster," which generated huge buzz at Cannes in 2015 but missed out on the Palme d'Or.
"Creating something that’s funny and horrific and tragic and violent all at the same time – going from one to another – that’s what I have been trying to do with most of my films," the Greek director told Reuters.
During the Farrell interview, the heightened soundtrack accompanying the grisly denouement of "Sacred Deer" could be heard through the walls of a nearby hall where it was screening.
Pointing in the theatre's direction, Farrell said: "Another 800 people are being tortured."